Monday, August 05, 2002

I thought it was time to buy a new CD burner. Mine peaked at 4x write speed and I got burner envy thinking of those 40x babies, tossing out a 40 minute CD in a minute. So I checked them out at MacWorld a few weeks ago, spoke to friend B about her crash and burn with an EZQuest unit and settled on a LaCie 32x unit. To make sure it worked with iTunes, I went to the Apple site, checked the compatibility and actually purchased it from Apple for $211. Yeah, that was a few bucks more than other place,s but I figured Apple could use my money and it was a way to make sure it worked with Apple's software.

So I thought.

By the time I got the unit, Apple had removed it from their list of supported drives. And for good reason. iTunes 3.0 doesn't "see" that burner. My Toast software does, but the LaCie was invisible to iTunes. Fuck it all. I called Apple to try and understand, but got nowhere. I called LaCie and they basically said We don't really know what the fuck Apple does."

The LaCie guy did say something informative. I mentioned that even with Toast, I couldn't get the unit to burn any fast than 10x (using a Disc-At-Once burn, not the buffer underrun protection, which worked at 32x but required additional steps and was in the end about as fast as a 10x burn). He admitted that burning mp3s, there's no way you'll get a true 32x burn to CD. The process of converting the track from mp3 to AIFF and then burning it taxes the processors too much. He thought 8x or 10x was the best constant rate anyone could expect for mp3 to CD. Pure data could be done faster, but not music CDs.

And here's another trick - the 32x and 40x burn speed you read about is peak speed. What actually happens if the data starts burning much slower - 10x or 12x - and then speeds up as it gets closer to the edge of the disc. If you're burning data which doesn't require conversion, the burner might peak at its top speed of 40x.

I hate being lied to. I hate trusting a company only to have them deceive meet with deceptively marketed products. So I promptly returned the LaCie drive to Apple (demanding that no 10% restocking fee be charged because their software didn't support the unit they sold). I then went out and bought a 20x Yamaha CD burner for $99. It lacks the fancy plastic box surrounding other third party units. But the Yamaha is rock solid, works great with iTunes and was $100 cheaper than everything else I saw. Sometime you just have to be cheap.

BTW - Apple is really starting to piss me off with their nickle and diming of the installed base - $120 for the new operating system, another $30 for Quicktime 6, $50-$100 for .Mac services (most of which used to be free). Has the concept of free upgrades vanished forever?

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